Ahead of the visit of president von der Leyen and Commissioner Johansson to Greece, the Socialists and Democrats are calling for genuine EU solidarity in response to the migration situation at the Greek-Turkish border, not just with a single border country, but between all EU member states and with refugees fleeing warzones.
Speaking during the plenary debate, the S&D Group in the European Parliament expressed support for Greece and other countries facing the same challenges at the borders, but reminded the Commission and the Council that asylum is a fundamental right and is part of EU and international law to which all member states are bound. S&D MEPs also urge the Commission to come forward with an emergency relocation plan, with priority for the most vulnerable refugees in Greece, not only including unaccompanied minors, but also children and families, and to address any breaches of EU and international law.
Iratxe García, S&D Group president said:
“With Erdoğan using vulnerable people as pawns in a political game, Greece has fallen victim to the lack of responsibility among EU governments in the Council to act. We have been waiting for years for effective reforms to the EU’s migration and asylum system, but people’s lives cannot wait.
“With around 13,000 gathering along the Greek-Turkish land border and 42,000 people on the Greek islands, the EU needs to act urgently to relocate refugees in Greece and other border countries, with priority to the most vulnerable people. On the Greek islands alone, there are 5,500 unaccompanied minors that need the EU’s help.
“We need to support Greece in managing the external border, but the Commission should immediately inform the European Parliament when and how the EUR 700 million in financial assistance will be used. We need to know that the measures taken do not violate EU and international law and humans rights. The information we learned from the New York Times yesterday on special 'black sites' in Greece is extremely worrying, and we call on the Commission to investigate this urgently. EU funding can never be used for activities breaching EU law or fundamental rights.
“We need solidarity with people fleeing the horrors of war, with the right to seek refuge under EU law and treat them in line with fundamental rights and with human dignity. For Socialists and Democrats, only solidarity will help oil the wheels of an effective new Pact on Migration and Asylum based on fairly sharing responsibility between member states. This is why S&D MEPs led the way in this Parliament calling for the Council to enter into negotiations as soon as possible to reform the Dublin Regulation and put in place a fair and sustainable distribution mechanism for those arriving in the EU.
“When president von der Leyen visits Greece this week, the S&D Group wants her to stop talking about shields. Shields is a word we use when talking about weapons. Here we are dealing with human beings seeking refuge. It's time to start talking about an EU in solidarity.”
Kati Piri, S&D vice-president on foreign affairs, added:
“After 9 years, the war in Syria is not over and only in the last few weeks, 1 million people have been fleeing Idlib. For too long we have been closing our eyes on the misery in Syria. Thousands of vulnerable people are trying to cross into Europe while the EU-Turkey deal falls into a state of collapse. The blame does not lie just at Turkey’s doorstep. Erdoğan using people as a tool for blackmail is completely unacceptable, but Europe’s failure to fulfil the agreement with Turkey has not helped.
“Now is the time to act and to find a new way forward with Turkey. The Commission and the Council need to fully reflect on what the root causes of the situation at the border with Greece are, but take urgent steps to show the EU acts in solidarity and set up a real asylum system in Europe.”